PAS & DAP: Difference and the limits of political rationality

Mainstream conventional view informs and compels us to believe, especially in Malaysia, that differing even opposing perspectives – to push it further, ideologies – cannot be managed in one single platform. Thus democrats, Islamists, socialists or a combination of all three, in one association cannot be depended upon for the pursuit of our society’s well-being. I wish to say that not only is this untrue and deceiving, but an attack on the very values of justice, freedom and equality that we hold dearly.

Let us first begin by disclosing and clarifying some of our basic assumptions. Firstly is that the universal and the particular should not be seen as opposites. This dichotomy is unhelpful because it encourages us to think that the values we have in our society or community exclusively belong only to us. Philosophy is an example of something that is both universal and particular at the same time. Generally it is an exercise of critical and profound reflection, but at the same within itself there are various forms of philosophy, be it Greek philosophy, German Idealism, Islamic philosophy or Eastern philosophy. Secondly it is natural that in any free and democratic society or human association there will be diverse beliefs and traditions, even diverging systems of thought and practice. This is a common characteristic and expression of the human condition. Thirdly, the very idea of the modern concept of reason is; one, to know the limits of reason, and two, to know the limits of political rationality. Therefore the use and practice of reason is to restraint the excesses of reason and political rationality.  

So how does all this fit into our society today and how is it related to us? When the President of MCA tells us that we cannot support the DAP because we will be supporting PAS and consequently Hudud law and the Islamic State, or when the President of UMNO declares that a vote for PAS will result in the ascendency of the DAP and thereafter a secular State. For these people such a condition is unacceptable. However the public use of reason is valuable and vital precisely because it reveals to us the very limits of political thought and action. In the case of the DAP and PAS, both have publicly admitted that this is an outstanding matter that requires further deliberation. This is a frank admission that not only exposes to the public what their stand is, but more importantly by acknowledging and recognising their limitations it enables them to work out ways to move beyond these limits. Barisan Nasional conversely purports to know everything and able to solve all problems, for all times. Still the coalition is plagued with massive limitations and contradictions accumulated over 55 years of which they are unwilling, incapable or refuse to acknowledge, what more resolve or reflect upon. The hideous child born out from this long incubation, this excess of political rationality, is manifested in an archaic, authoritarian, feudal and communalistic regime and status quo that has outlived its time.

What are political parties – in this instance PAS and DAP – if not to a certain extent a partial representation of the diverse and complex Malaysian society that we have today? That also our society commands various thought and practice systems is a necessary feature of the human condition. Is it not because of the maintenance of democratic principles, and the allowance of free expression and equal participation that different parties on the political spectrum can position themselves on a single common platform? And while there may be differences in perspectives, still these parties who come together on a single platform, because of the unity of the universal and the particular, can strive to pursue the shared values of social justice, equal citizenship, and the free and public use of reason?

The journey has never been about wanting answers or giving answers. It is about creating the conditions of possibility necessary for the search and attainment of answers. That is why Barisan Nasional will not last. This is a different era.



Alain Badiou, The Adventure of French Philosophy

Albert Camus, The Rebel

Michel Foucault, What is Enlightenment?

Michel Foucault, Politics and Reason

John Rawls, The Domain of the Political and Overlapping Consensus


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